Monthly Archives: June 2011

Magical Travel

No, I’m not talking astral travel.

Some of you may know I’m a technician for the sport of fencing. (If you didn’t, you do now.) I also occasionally travel for business. There is nothing anywhere close to our lovely mountain home, so this means I have to drive or fly & stay in hotels. Most of the time at tournaments and on some business trips, my husband is my roommate. But on occasion, I have a roommate who knows nothing about my personal life. I like to keep it that way, too.

So, how do I manage to slip a little magic into my life when on the road & staying with someone who may be an acquaintance or usually, a virtual stranger?

First, I take my own soap. Nice though those little hotel soaps may be, they’re not infused with my intentions. By taking my own, I can do the same thing I do every morning: a little spell as I’m showering.

A small sachet under my pillow at night brings good dreams. It contains herbs whose scent I adore and is charged to calm me from a hectic day. Although it doesn’t do a thing to disguise my roommate’s snoring (I carry earplugs just in case), it does help me sleep in a strange bed.

Most hotels have some sort of nice landscaping around them. Unless you’re staying at the local dump fronting the expressway with nothing but road or parking lot in sight (and yes, I’ve stayed at many fitting this description), there’s usually one or two shrubs with a bench somewhere. A ten-minute escape to this bench is good for meditation or for muttering something under your breath. If you don’t mind anyone thinking you’re nuts, you can even wave your arms around if you need to.

If your hotel room has a balcony, this is another great place for meditation or a quickie spell away from those out-of-the-know. I carry a candle poured into a tin with a lid just in case I get the opportunity to sit out on a balcony (or screened patio) for a few private minutes.

I’m off to a tournament tomorrow, and won’t be back for a couple of weeks. Canucks: enjoy Canada Day. Yanks: enjoy your 4th. Brits: enjoy the upcoming bank holiday. I’ll ‘see’ you when I get back!

A Sticky Subject

I get a lot of questions about using herbs, both medicinally and magically. (Surprise?) A lot of beginners want to know which herbs they ought to start out with. I did a post on Top Ten Herbs but one of those, Myrrh, and a few similar herbs need some more attention. I’m not talking about flowers, leaves, bark or roots; today I’ll focus on resins.

For the most part ‘resin’ and ‘gum’ can be and are used interchangeably, so ‘Benzoin Gum’ is the same thing as ‘Benzoin Resin’. Resin is exuded from trees but shouldn’t be confused with tree sap – although just as sticky & gooey as sap before it dries, it’s not the same thing. Botanists haven’t figured out why certain trees exude resins but they do, and we can make use of them.

The most widely-known are Benzoin, Copal, Dragon’s Blood, Frankincense and Myrrh. (Amber falls into this category, too, but is fossilized, not quite as easy to come by and can be quite high in price. There are others, as well, such as some Pine resins, Gum Mastic, etc., but I won’t address those.)

When you mention a resin, most people think of incense and how good it smells. However, most resins are useful in a medicinal sense, as well.

Resins have been used for millenia. There is evidence that Myrrh was used in the embalming process in Egypt. The Kohl that Egyptian women used to line their eyes was made of charred Frankincense. And of course, there’s the story that Frankincense & Myrrh were two of the three gifts the Magi brought to the baby Jesus. Why resins along with gold? At that time, they were as precious and expensive as gold. Not so much anymore if you follow the precious metals market, eh?

All resins are antibacterial; some more than others. Myrrh has made its way to the forefront of commercial ‘herbal’ preparations because of its medicinal properties. I’ve even seen it as an ingredient in toothpaste. Benzoin has been used for ages as a preservative – if you look on product labels you may see “benzoic acid” listed. That’s a particular extract of benzoin gum. Although not usually used today for anything other than incense, Copal was used by ancient Mezoamericans (including the Maya) as a remedy for loose teeth and stomach pains.

Recent studies suggest that Dragon’s Blood could have an effect on memory loss … leading to the possibility that it could help with some forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s Disease.

There is a caution when using resins. There have been reports of contact sensitization (allergic dermatitis) when using skin preparations with Benzoin as a preservative. As well, some people react badly to extracts of Myrrh. A skin patch test will easily show you if you have this problem prior to using a product all over.

All resins extract better in alcohol than water so if you want to make a water preparation (such as an infusion), be sure your resin is well-powdered and that you have a good strainer, like a coffee filter, on hand. The best way to use them is to purchase a liquid extract or essential oil. If you want to tincture Copal, beware: this particular resin melts in alcohol and although you’ll get a fair-quality tincture, the resin will be a gloppy mess that’s difficult to clean out of your jar.

All resins have a wonderful magical property: cleansing & protection. Maybe it goes along with the medicinal-antibacterial property? Anyway, passing your magical tools (or yourself) through resin smoke does a wonderful job of purifying.

I know a lot of folks burn a resin-based incense during meditation or divination. (Use only a little bit at a time – resin puts out a lot of smoke!) Dragon’s Blood is the only resin you can make into a magical ink. The others will come out rather clear and impossible to see on your writing surface.

Experiment with resins. You may have some wonderful results!

Easy Everyday Magic

A thread on a forum got me to thinking. The original poster was asking how people manage to incorporate magic into everyday life. We’re all busy … sometimes to the point of hectic; some days, there doesn’t seem to be enough time to shoehorn a spell in sideways. Even though I’m self-employed and an empty-nester, my schedule is quite full. (A lot of people seem to think ‘self’ means ‘un’ and I have all the time in the world to do things. Rrriiight.)

I did have to think. I’ve been at this awhile and there’s so much I do that’s incorporated into my routine. I ran everything through my brain & came up with one easy way I do a little magic every day: Soap! The melt-and-pour soap bases you can get at the craft store or online make it almost a snap. With the exception of however long it takes you to bathe each day, approximately ten (cumulative) minutes is all you need.

Step 1: Buy some melt-and-pour base. There are several available & most websites will describe the benefits of a particular type of base. Choose one that’s right for your skin & budget. The base type doesn’t matter in the magical end of things.

Step 2: Decide how many bars you want to make & what size. Most commercial bars are around 4 ounces. Some packaging will tell you how much to use; for others, you’ll need a scale – a measuring cup is handy, too. If you don’t want to go to the expense of buying a fancy mold, an empty (and clean) cream-cheese or similar container works well.

Step 3 (the start of your magic): Decide what you want this soap to accomplish (other than cleaning you, of course). Pick the herbs and/or essential oils you want to use. My ‘morning’ soap is Peppermint & Rosemary. Peppermint is good for health, Rosemary is good for protection & the scent combination is my ‘wake up & get your butt moving’ aroma. I have another one for calming & relaxing. (Herbs: Medicinal, Magical, Marvelous! has lists to help you choose.) Pick one or a combination with the appropriate properties and whose scent you or others won’t find offensive (Garlic probably isn’t a good choice, here ;)).

Step 4: If you want herbs in your soap, be sure to use dried; fresh has too much water content & will spoil. Grind them up – most will feel scratchy on your skin if you don’t (Lavender being one notable exception). You’ll want approximately two tablespoons per 4 ounce bar. If you want a little deodorant help, use one or two tablespoons of baking soda per bar; for softening, one or two tablespoons of powdered oatmeal. I use a goat’s milk base and only two tablespoons total of solids per 4 ounce bar. More than that, I end up with a gloppy mess in the shower.

Step 5: If you want to use essential oils, ensure what you’re using won’t make you sun-sensitive (Bergamot is famous for this) and have the bottles ready to hand. Bear in mind that as you add EOs to the soap base, they’re going to smell stronger while the soap is hot than when it cools. A maximum of 20 drops total per bar should be enough for a good aroma even after the soap has cooled.

Step 6: Once the soap has melted in the microwave (follow package instructions), add your herbs, oils & other stuff. Stir clockwise until everything is thoroughly blended, all the while infusing the mixture with your intent. Pour into your mold.

Step 7: Allow to cool, pop out of your mold and use! While you’re soaping yourself, reinforce that intent with a chant, or even just a focused thought.

Easy peasy!

Computers: A Love/Hate Relationship


I love computers. I really do. As an accountant, they’ve made my life so much easier. I never want to go back to the dark age of post binders & adding machines.

Without computers and the Internet, I wouldn’t be able to easily communicate with all you wonderful folks. I remember typing newsletters onto bluish-purple paper and running them through a ditto machine to make copies, collating, addressing envelopes, stuffing, stamping. (Just writing that brings back the strange aroma of ditto paper.) How many blogs do you think I’d get out in a month that way today? Probably none. I’m lazy like that.

On the other hand, I have to watch where I do spells. I have to keep electronics and magic far apart. I forgot one day several years ago and did a quickie spell at my desk. The monitor fizzled.

On the other hand, this little laptop has thousands, maybe millions of paper-equivalent pages of information I’ve amassed over the years. My personal herb database started in around 20 spiral-bound notebooks and it’s grown even further since I converted it to computer. Research notes for books would take up reams of paper instead of a tiny fraction of the hard drive.

On the other hand (I seem to have several), as you may have noticed, I’ve changed my blog template. After 3+ hours, it still isn’t quite the way I’d like it to be. I need to eat lunch and I do have other things to do today. So you’ll forgive me if, right now, it doesn’t look quite as pretty as the old template. I’m hungry.


Pucker Up!

It’s hot here in the Southeast. It got up to 93°F yesterday even here in the mountains. I finally had to shut up the house and turn on the air conditioning.

I don’t know about you, but when the temps rise, lemonade is what comes to mind to cool me down.  I’ll admit to being lazy: I make mine from frozen concentrate but I also like it a little more tart than (apparently) most people, so I add the juice of a fresh lemon.

The use of Lemon Citrus limon goes back centuries. Although its origins are unknown, it’s thought it was originally cultivated in India, perhaps as a hybrid of Citron Citrus medica and Bitter Orange Citrus aurantium. It made its way to Italy as early as the 1st century CE and from there to Spain, the Middle East and Africa. Christopher Columbus introduced it to the Americas via Florida. Some scientist in the mid-1700’s figured out the relationship between Vitamin C and scurvy, then found out that citrus fruits are high in Vitamin C. After that, English ships were required to carry enough lemons or limes to prevent scurvy in all hands.

One interesting thing I found: Lemon juice was once used to counteract the effects of opium poisoning. I haven’t heard of that in modern times, but it does present a “hmmm” moment when thinking about all the prescription narcotic overdoses you hear about.

I’ve been using lemon for years for more than just lemonade … and not just during the summer.  Using a paste of lemon juice and baking soda does a wonderful job cleaning the kitchen and bath. It makes all the chrome nice & shiny and everything smells fresh. Although I abhor using ‘antibacterial’ cleaning products, I get a little of that when I use lemon juice. Manufacturers have gotten on the bandwagon – I see all sorts of ‘lemon’ cleaning products on the market today. (I’m old enough to remember when “Lemon Pledge” was new. Mom thought it was the best thing since sliced bread because the house smelled so good after I finished dusting.) These products (when they use real ingredients) don’t use the juice but the essential oil, which is pressed or distilled from the peel.

Lemon isn’t just for lemonade or cleaning. It also has a boatload of medicinal uses. It’s a refrigerant (cooling), which is one of the reasons it’s so good on a hot summer day. You can also squeeze a little juice onto a sunburn to ease the pain. Its astringent qualities make it ideal for oily skin; and to help dry up mucus from coughs & colds. I took a page out of an opera singer’s book: when I’m speaking I mix 1 cup hot water with 2 tablespoons lemon juice. It keeps my throat clear. (Add two tablespoons of brandy or whiskey and you’ve got a nice hot toddy.) Applying the fresh peel, white side toward the wound, will help staunch bleeding. Although not specific for this, Lemon can also help calm morning sickness – at least a glass of tart lemonade worked for me.

Speaking of cleaning, you can dilute fresh juice in some water and use this to cleanse magical items. (Or, if you don’t have a fresh lemon around, a couple of drops of essential oil in a cup of water will work, too.) Add it to a purification bath, especially one at the full moon. Lemon is useful in spells about friendship: serve lemon pie or even lemonade to either attract a new friend or ensure a lasting friendship.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s already 88°F in the shade. I need to go get a glass of lemonade.